I’m probably the last guy on Earth you would find playing, let alone enjoying a turn-based game, but here I am writing about how enjoyable Strategy First’s turn-based RPG game, Etherlords II is. I thought at first it might be the fact that it was the only game I could play fairly well with one hand since I broke my arm in a car accident (reason for the late review) but there’s a lot more to it than that.Developed by Nival Interactive, Etherlords II is the story of four races that are trying to dominate the lands of Etherlords. Each race has its own unique characteristics, which provide different tactical methods when it comes to battling enemies. The Chaots are powerful and aggressive in their attacks while Kinets utilize speed in their emphasis on counterattacks. The Vitals rely on nature’s magic and are the most balanced in offensive and defensive attacks. Lastly, the Synthets are part human and part machine, and field a wide variety of aggressive fighters.The turn-based fighting takes place in pre-set arenas, which is common to many turn-based games but the problem is that it distracts from the RPG elements and has a somewhat stagnating effect on the gameplay. Turn-based fans won’t have a problem with it but gamers expecting in-play environments for their battles might find it disappointing. Once you get past this, it becomes rather apparent that the strength of Etherlords II is the wide variety of spells and strategies involved with the game’s combat.There are way too many spells to list here but rest a*ured you’ll won’t be disappointed in the wide variety of spells at your disposal. What you will be disappointed in, is the lack of a spell index in the game manual. There’s an index in the game menu but it’s a drag having to jump out of the game every time you want to reference the list. This becomes even more obvious when you’re in a close battle and you’re trying to maximize every one of your turns. I guess you’ll have to go low-tech and jot down the spells or try to find a list on the Web. Bottom line – the spells should be listed in the manual.Spells can be either acquired from shops or taken from defeated foes. Experience points are also earned through battle wins, which enable you to level up your character. Other dynamic elements of a hero’s characteristics involve unique specialization and skills that become available as your character progresses through the game. The RPG component of Etherlords II works extremely well as it’s seamlessly integrated into the turn-based fighting. You can access your inventory and place the spell cards into your active deck anytime before entering a battle. Once you’re in battle screen, you’re spells are set so you’ll find yourself constantly adjusting your deck as you pick up or acquire new spells. This is important since the number of active slots is limited to 16 slots and some spells are tailored to certain enemies. For example using a spell geared towards flying enemies against an earth-bound creature is a waste of a slot.The battles are great fun for turn-based action and the graphics fireworks add immensely to the experience. As an action gamer who doesn’t fancy turn-based games, this is a major complement. The clean interface and simple execution of the turn-based battle structure also help to remove some of the stigma that turn-based action can’t be nearly as enjoyable as real-time gaming. Add the moody effects from the excellent music and you’ve got a highly immersive experience on hand.The single player game consists of Duel mode (instant combat arena) and Campaign mode, which is a lot more enjoyable since you get to fully enjoy the RPG elements. The game also includes an online multiplayer, LAN and a Hot Seat option, which allows two players to play against each on one computer so there is no limit to proving your mastering of spells.Etherlords II is a perfect example of how a quality game should be designed with its implementation of a simple interface and the successful integration of RPG elements within a traditional turn-based game. I highly recommend this game to those who are new to turn-based gaming as well as veterans of the genre since Nival Interactive and Strategy First have cast a winning spell with Etherlords II.

Paul Younger
Founder and Editor of PC Invasion. Founder of the world's first gaming cafe and Veteran PC gamer of over 22 years.

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